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GOP senator: Bush plan could match Vietnam blunder

Story Highlights

NEW: Sen. Hagel says Bush plan could be dangerous foreign policy blunder
NEW: Sen. Boxer to Rice, "You're not going to pay a personal price" for Iraq policy
• Sen. Feingold suggests cutting funding to force troop withdrawal
From Ted Barrett
CNN Washington Bureau
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Perhaps the strongest worded opposition to President Bush's plan to send more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq came from a fellow Republican on Thursday.

Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska described the move as "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it's carried out."

"I will resist it," he said.

Hagel's comments sparked applause from the Senate gallery, where lawmakers were engaged in a heated debate with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who came to Capitol Hill to answer questions about the president's new strategy for Iraq.

"The fundamental question the American people and, I think, every senator on this panel -- Republican and Democrat -- are having to face now is: At what point do we say 'enough?' " Democrat Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois asked Rice.

"What leverage do we have that would provide us some assurance that six months from now, you will not be sitting before us again saying, 'Well, it didn't work?' "

Rice replied, "The leverage is, we're not going to stay married to a plan that's not working in Baghdad."

And she assured skeptical senators that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is up to the challenges he faces.

Democrat Russ Feingold of Wisconsin so far is the only senator to suggest that Congress cut off funds for the war and force the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, however, has said he intends to introduce a largely symbolic resolution next week expressing opposition to Bush's plan. (Watch why Reid says Bush is virtually standing alone Video)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has said he would seek to block such a move. He has not said whether he has the votes to do so.

Sen. Barbara Boxer of California took the opportunity to point out that Rice, with no children of her own, will not feel the loss of a son or daughter in Iraq.

"Who pays the price?" Boxer asked Rice. "I'm not going to pay a personal price. My kids are too old and my grandchild is too young. You're not going to pay a personal price, as I understand it, with an immediate family. So who pays the price? The American military and their families ... not me, not you."

Rice replied: "I fully understand the sacrifice that the American people are making, and especially the sacrifice that our soldiers are making, men and women in uniform. I visit them. I know what they're going through. I talk to their families. I see it."

Boxer interrupted: "Madam Secretary, please. I know you feel terrible about it. That's not the point. I was making the case as to who pays the price for your decisions.

"And the fact that this administration would move forward with this escalation with no clue as to the further price that we're going to pay militarily ... I find really appalling."

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a strong proponent of sending more troops to win the war in Iraq, has said it would be within Congress' rights to outline how the conflict is funded.

But he also said he'd like to "give this new strategy a chance to succeed." (Watch how corruption is making war pricier Video)

"I believe that, under the Constitution, Congress has the right to cut off funding. They did that during the Vietnam War," said McCain, who was a prisoner of war during that conflict. "I also believe that if that vote is successful, then those who were the proponents of it then assume the consequences of failure."

Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts said he was introducing legislation to curtail the president's ability to deploy troops and dispense funding.

Kennedy said the bill states "that no additional troops can be sent and no additional dollars can be spent on such an escalation unless and until Congress approves the president's plan."


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Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska said he will "resist" President Bush's plan to send an additional 20,000 troops to Iraq.

SPECIAL REPORT

• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide
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